For more than a century and a half, Ohio has been developing our natural resources sensibly and responsibly. This approach is rooted in our culture and economy.
Despite this tradition, the federal government is hindering shale development throughout significant parts of Southeastern Ohio. Some residents, particularly in Monroe and Washington counties, have elected to lease their private mineral rights for the purpose of oil and natural gas development. But many are finding themselves in a situation where their private leases are at risk of not being developed because their private mineral leases are adjacent to, or under the surface of, the Wayne National Forest.
As the federal agency with jurisdiction over these leases, the Bureau of Land Management must allow for a transparent and efficient consideration of these leases in and under the Wayne. While there are more than 1,200 active oil and gas wells on the surface of the Wayne National Forest, there has not been any shale development under the forest, despite the fact that the U.S. Forest Service has indicated that its Forest Plan would accommodate shale development.
Recently, the BLM took a positive step forward announcing the start of the process to approve federal leasing in the Wayne National Forest. While this is progress --- a much needed step toward restoring property rights -- all too often President Obama's agencies put politics ahead of sound science when making regulatory decisions. That's why I have been tracking this process for a few years now. In fact, I have authored legislation that would require 20 percent of the revenues from production sites on federally-owned land be returned to the counties whose governments provide services there. This legislation would also require that this revenue be used to support education initiatives and road improvements within that county -- at no additional cost to the taxpayer.
Ohio is rebounding, and oil and gas development is playing a major role in strengthening our economy. The Wayne National Forest Supervisor stated in August 2012, and I concur, that "there is neither the need to restrict availability of federal oil and gas resources, nor the need to propose additional Forest Plan standards of guidelines."
I urge the BLM to take action on the pending leases in the Wayne National Forest.
Republican William Leslie "Bill" Johnson has been U.S. Representative for Ohio's 6th Congressional District since 2011.